In the Yakuza series, several characters are sent to jail for murder, but it's only ever for 10-15-ish years. I was wondering if this was at all realistic, since I'm only aware of people going to jail for murder for 50+ years.

For the record, the relevant jurisdiction is Tokyo, and the murders were evidently committed without justification (e.g. not in self-defence).

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    Your awareness of people going to jail for 50+ years: is this "in Japan" - because as far as I know, nobody is given a tariff of 50 years in England and Wales. (Murder has a mandatory sentence of "life", but there is also a minimum period in jail called the "tariff" and this has a starting point of 30/25/15 years depending on the seriousness.) Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


Article 199 of the Penal Code, as it appears from changes up to 2017, says:


A person who kills another person is punished by the death penalty or imprisonment for life or for a definite term of not less than 5 years.

This is for homicide as opposed to other related crimes, and there are also effects on sentencing for someone who is guilty of multiple offences, for example. The term can be halved if there are sufficient extenuating circumstances, so 2.5 years seems to be the minimum. In any case, 10-15 years is within the range.

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    What about someone who kills defensively? Surely at least a cop can do so legally, but what about your average Joe? Does this mean that unless you are a cop, a soldier, etc., the law in Japan does not recognize defensive killing? (This is not only asking about self-defense, but also defense of others.) Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 2:11
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    @Panzercrisis: I would assume that's assuming the killing was found punishable (i.e. unlawful) in the first place, but I don't actually know. Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 3:19
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    @Panzercrisis If you scroll around on the linked page you will find rules about that in Articles 36ff. If self defense is found then it's not a crime, but force has to be within reasonable limits. If not, it might still be reason for a lesser punishment. Police actually have stricter rules because they are under a professional obligation.
    – alexg
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 7:35
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    @alexg Yeah everywhere except the US.:D
    – DRF
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 8:09
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    @AdamBarnes that is why I quoted from the official translation of the Japanese law by the Ministry of Justice of Japan
    – alexg
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 20:07

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